Shooting the ADHD Messenger


A paper in the Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy chronicles the history of MiA blogger Gretchen LeFever Watson’s effort to improve ADHD treatment in southeastern Virginia, which included documenting the exceptionally high rates of ADHD diagnosis and associated drug treatment in her community. Watson’s career and efforts were undermined by anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations of scientific misconduct connected with her report. As a result the public health coalition – and important data – that the effort had produced were successfully suppressed.

Article →

Watson, G., Arcona, A., Antonuccio, D., Healy, D.; Shooting the Messenger: The Case of DHD. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy. Online August 14, 2013

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Chilling – although the primary point is the damage done to children and the shutting down of a promising way of dealing with “ADHD”, this suggests just how corrupt, sinister and ossified the U.S. “mental health” establishment is. PhARMA and psychiatry have the resources and influence to pursue and squelch a researcher over virtually nothing, while Barkley and the establishment can be as irresponsible as they want with impunity. Their blatant conflicts of interest and/or transparent manipulations do them virtually no harm.

    As for the U. S. establishment, just imagine if these same sharks had been in Finland: they would have cooked up the same kind of PR soufle and made mince meat of Open Dialogue’s years of sound research. The world would never have known of the huge potential represented by Open Dialogue.

    This shouldn’t be shocking – we already know about similar pressure on Loren Mosher, Peter Breggin, Grace Jackson, David Healy and David Stein. But it still makes my blood boil.

    Many thanks to Dr. Watson for doing this work, and to all the authors for pulling this story together.

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  2. Peter, I work in Finland and regret to inform You that those sharks are here too. Sadly Open Dialogue is more-or-less confined to some tiny corner of Lapland. I work in the Helsinki area where many seem welded to a biological model of mental illness. The current national care guidelines for Schizophrenia have nothing of an open dialogue approach rather it is all diagnosis and drug treatment focused. I have asked around as to why with such good outcomes open dialogue isn’t more widespread. Someone told me they were at a meeting when Open Dialogue was presented and the approach was accused of being ‘unethical’ because ‘schizophrenia is a brain disease and it is wrong to withold treatment from them’. Jaakko Seikula himself has also admitted that the outcome results have been accused of being ‘too good to be true’. Luckily he remains quite sanguine and philosophical about it all.

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  3. Jeremy,

    I knew that the rest of Finland was not on board with Open Dialogue. Having read Jaako Seikula’s book, your statement about his remaining “quite sanguine and philosophical” makes me smile: the book at first frustrated, then entertained me, as it too was sanguine and philosophical – not academic and bristling with citations as I’d expected. Reading it felt like I was being treated to a slice of an Open Dialogue meeting, in which the same gentle, calm touch is called “tolerance of uncertainty.”

    It seems Seikula’s “tolerance of uncertainty” would translate in the U.S. to not totally flipping out when people show overwhelming pain. I think, other than PhARMA’s love for profits, and psychiatry’s attachment to hegemony, the primary driver of biological psychiatry and drugs is simply terror of permanent loss of control. The terror seems to exist as much in those around “patients” as in “patients” themselves – and “tolerance of uncertainty” is Seikula’s lovely way of dissolving that the grip of that spell on professionals, “patients” and families. Brilliant.

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    • I believe that another reason that drives people to try to control the mad, at all costs, is the fact that mad people (through no choice of our own) often expose the underbelly of our society.

      Our traumas experienced in this society are the “creepy crawlers” that live in that dark underbelly. Most people don’t want to talk about these things let alone deal with them. So, any time that one of us holds one of these “creepy crawlers” up for all to see we are drugged and silenced and incarcerated until we agree to quit exposing the ugly things.

      Even within the so-called “treatment” the system refuses to deal with the the “creepy crawlers” that caused our dis-ease and distress. This is why there is a revolving door in the Admissions Department of every state hospital in this country. Granted, not every mad person’s madness is due to trauma. Some may be dealing with spiritual issues. But a great many were pushed into madness by the things that were done to them.

      I don’t know, but it sounds as if Open Dialogue’s “tolerance of uncertainty” just might allow those “creepy crawlers” to be discussed and dealt with.

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          • Stephen,
            I think the “creepy crawlers” are what virtually everyone is terrified of. There isn’t all that much difference between the “mad” and the “normal” among us. There is a powerful baseline of disregard of each person’s humanity in society that affects us all – those who maintain the posture of “normality” generally do so by finding ways not to deal with the dehumanization and oppression that permeate our environment.

            We call general society “normal” by ignoring the fallout of this pervasive dehumanization and oppression – racism, sexism, classism, adultism, ageism, etc.. We act as though it’s “normal” to have the highest incarceration rate in the world, to be polluting the planet, poisoning ourselves and other creatures, heedlessly overheating the planet, engaging in one war after another … on and on … and then we call “crazy” those people who openly react to the private or public insults to our souls experienced by most everyone.

            As you say, we panic when the “creepy crawly” fallout of the oppression and dehumanization are pushed in our faces by the “mad.’ It’s one of the ways those around the “mad” become terrified and reach to drug the “mad” into passivity.

            “Trauma” is kind of a red herring. Surely there are terrible experiences that push people into experiencing “madness.” And in a world where most of us are desperate to ignore pain and trauma, it’s clear a lot more things are “traumatic” than we even now admit. But in addition to this, oppression and dehumanization also affect us in mundane ways day in and day out – “death by a thousand cuts.” And we are all so different that “smaller” accumulated cuts can affect one person very differently from another. Even just observing unfairness endured by others can cause great pain to us.

            Whether officially-approved “trauma” or not, it’s all humans experiencing being de-valued, exploited and oppressed, and it is very damaging. We all come into the world eagerly expecting close, loving relations with others – and it is very painful for us to experience the lack of these things in our daily lives.

            Open Dialogue is a wise way of restoring a semblance of humanity to human relationships that have become stuck in conflict, fear and misunderstanding in the social network of the person who is labelled “mad.”

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          • Peter, you summed it up so well. When I was starting out in the world of “mental health” in the 80s, we still talked about unconscious motivations and the impact of parenting and even society as a whole on development. Now it’s 100% “blame the victim.” If you can’t hack it in today’s insane world, then you’re insane, because by definition, the status quo is always wonderful to those who are in control of it.

            I’m reminded of Jung’s concept of the “shadow self.” I think society as a whole has a “shadow self” that is represented by those who object to it, consciously or not. And the larger society feels compelled to snuff out any emergence of this ugly underbelly by whatever means possible, because it reminds them that all is not as well as they want to believe. And the APA and the pharmaceutical companies have all been too happy to play into that need, as they make plenty of good bucks at it. Of course, anyone who actually looks at the data is to be shot on sight.

            As a friend of mine once said, “Never let the facts stand in the way of a good theory!”

            — Steve

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        • “all humans experiencing being de-valued, exploited and oppressed, and it is very damaging. We all come into the world eagerly expecting close, loving relations with others – and it is very painful for us to experience the lack of these things in our daily lives.”

          Yup. But it is also very painful for some people to be loved. Hurts like hell sometimes so they push love away or they attack it and hurt it. Love can be real scary.

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  4. I think many – most? – of us have some fear about loving and being loved. But I think it’s likely because we have been painfully rejected at least once (or often) and have not found the resource to heal in a world where many people are too preoccupied with their own pain to fully support another. Really good, affirming listeners who can sit still long enough for another person to really process their pain, can be hard to find – so the hurt person can be left high and dry.

    Someone without the support to recover from painfully lost love can easily become afraid to love or accept love again, for fear that if they do, they will lose again. A very, very painful spot to be in.

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    • “Someone without the support to recover from painfully lost love can easily become afraid to love or accept love again”

      I just *have* to! I love it when things like this happen. It’s a new status update from a source that feeds me content to keep me busy & occupied. Synchronistic and it fits rather well here, I think.

      “When you jump – when you really let go and trust – you find out pretty quickly that Life does love you, that the Universe does, in fact, have your best interest at heart!”

      Maybe what’s so scary for some people is the actual healing.?

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      • mjk

        Good question.

        Perhaps, if a person actually healed then their life would be so totally different from what it was before that it’s frightening to think about how to deal with such tremendous change. All at once you’re faced with a new “road” to travel, a road you’ve never traveled before. Who knows where the bumps and potholes are to be avoided, where do you stop to refuel, etc.; it creates a totally new bunch of questions to deal with. I do believe that’s frightening for a lot of people to face. At least with your unhealed life you kind of know what you’re dealing with. A healed life, or a life in the process of healing, is all unknown territory.

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        • I’ve been thinking about what you posted above.

          I believe that another part of the problem that we’re dealing with in our society is that no one really and truly believes that they should be held responsible for any of what’s going on or not going on in our society. I suspect that a lot of this is do to the fact that Americans are becoming “isolationists.”

          People have less and less contact with other people due to our technology. It’s come to the point that I think a lot of people believe that they’re only responsible for themselves and they shouldn’t have to worry about what’s happening to anyone else. That’s their problem, not mine. And we often don’t have to deal with the results of our bad behavior. Look what happens with bullying on the internet and the huge problem of disrespect on sicial media.

          Houses don’t have front porches on them anymore because families don’t go out and sit on them and visit with each other or their neighbors. There’s the air conditioning and the TV to tend to; lots more important to vege out rather than see what’s going on with your kids or parents these days.

          Inside the house each family member has their own room that they go to where they have their own TV, their own i-pod, their own computer, their own PS3, and they sit in their rooms by themselves and vege out with their technology. When I was a kid the entire family sat in the living room and watched the boob tube together, not of this having your own television in your own room.

          I see groups of people in restaurants sitting at the table with one another, not talking with one another but texting on their phones! Why even go out to eat together? Even when they do end up talking with one another the conversations are repeatedly interrupted by texts that they just have to read on their phones right then and there.

          You can do your banking strictly on your smart phone now without ever having to deal with a real person.

          There’s all this emphasis on me, me, me and less emphasis on us and community. Therefore, if it’s all about me, why in the world should I ever have to worry about what’s going on in someone else’s life?!! Their life is their business or problem and I shouldn’t have to be worried about any of it. It’s not my fault or problem.

          I know; saying all of this dates me, but I’ve watched some interesting things happen with people over the years through the introduction of more and more technology. Hey, soldiers in the Air Force can direct a smart bomb down a chimney of a house from hundreds of miles away and they never have to witness the human carnage that their “work” caused. We send drones after people we want to destroy and we do it from hundreds of miles away. No contact with the blood and the mess that we cause. We are not confronted with the resluts of our inhumanity to others.

          Thanks for listening to my rant. It should probably have been posted in the forums but not much seems to go on there.

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  5. “improve ADHD treatment in southeastern Virginia, which included documenting the exceptionally high rates of ADHD diagnosis and associated drug treatment in her community.”


    From the video, “NASA launched rockets from Virgina’s eastern shore on the 4th of July” and delivered a “huge quantity of lithium”.


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